March Madness

Peace, Quiet and T-Shirts

Every year, it seems like I watch less and less college basketball. I used to watch Big Monday. I almost broke my parents’ TV when I found out they were putting Duke/UNC on a new network called ESPN2 that Eureka, CA was at least two years away from getting (this was a long time ago, at least a year before Tyler Hansbrough became a Tarheel).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an NBA guy. The difference between the NBA and college basketball is like the difference between men’s college ball and watching women play. But after watching about 24 hours of the NCAA’s over the past two and a half days I’ve come to this conclusion: college basketball isn’t that bad. Sure, every supremely talented player goes to the NBA as soon as they turn 19, but college ball has three things going for it I wish the NBA did.

1. Shorter Season = more effort

I would never argue that the NCAA Tournament is better than the NBA Playoffs, but college basketball’s 30-game season means every halfway decent defensive team plays high-energy defense the entire season. Sure, the Warriors as currently constructed would be better suited to play like Louisville and press on every dead ball, go for as many steals and threes as humanly possible and run at every opportunity, but during an 82-game season it’s impossible for the Warriors to simply play hard every game…which is why they only do so at home.

Obviously the college game is 8 minutes shorter, the shot clock is 11 seconds longer (and why the NCAA can’t move the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds is beyond me, especially given the fact that high school basketball is able to — of course we’re talking about the NCAA, a governing body that decided it was a good idea to ban dunking from 1967-76) and the players aren’t as skilled. But part of the reason why fewer points are scored in college is because there’s a more consistent effort on the defensive end. I like watching a game where both teams hit the 120’s from time to time, but I also enjoy seeing a good trap sometimes too.

2. The sounds of the game

While watching UCLA get thoroughly outclassed by Villanova, I noticed something wonderful: no repetetive musical clips every possession. Every NBA team has been so focused on providing an “experience” that every single spare second has to be filled with white noise. For example, it seems like every time the Lakers are on offense at Staples Center they have to play that horrible “Everybody clap your hands…clapclapclapclapclapclapclap” thing, only the “claps” sound like electronic thundersticks.

Who enjoys shit like this? Are NBA players so overstimulated that in the future they’ll just play an iPod on shuffle straight through entire games, or will all games be stocked with DJ’s playing all the latest Rhianna and T.I.? Maybe so, since the NBA’s also the league with most players interested in Twittering. Oh, and if I ever tell you guys to start following my Twitter page, you have my permission to hack into this site and cover it with pictures of Tyra Banks, the Jonas Brothers and A-Rod kissing his own reflection.

In college the only sounds you hear are the ball pounding, crowds yelling, sneakers squeaking and shots flying through the net. I know I’m not the only one who wishes NBA games included more basketball noise and less crappy R&B and “day-O” every thirty seconds.

3. Freedom of (uniform) choice

Even though some of the jerseys in college ball are starting to look like football jerseys, at least they’re unique and customizable. Like Scions. College players can wear nothing under their jerseys, or they can don wife-beaters, muscle-t’s, t-shirts or lycra compression shirts. NBA players aren’t even allowed to wear compression sleeves that are too long on their legs or arms, while all college point guards under 6’0″ can sport man-capris that brush the ground during especially low crossovers.

Plus, not every uni looks the same. The NBA’s got only a couple templates for uniforms, and as a result the only jerseys that go against the norm are the Wizards’ gold ones (ugh) or the Warriors’ orange roadies (and that’s only because nobody else in the NBA is gutsy enough to go with that color unless it’s throwback night). Remember Kentucky’s denim uniforms in the mid-1990’s? They might have been a horrible idea, but at least there was something different to look and laugh at. Who doesn’t like remembering horrible uniforms and laughing years later? Isn’t that the only reason why the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates exist?

Since we can’t keep this all positive, here’s a question/complaint about this year’s college jersey…Who sewed the blue circular NCAA logos on these guys’ shoulders, the players themselves? They’re all cockeyed and look like a Boy Scout merit badge. Isn’t the big blue NCAA emblem at centercourt enough? I think we know we aren’t watching the NBDL. Still, it’s inarguable that college basketball does have its bright spots besides holding a tournament that encourages rampant gambling and worker unproductivity, and it’s still the second-best brand of basketball available to the viewing public in the nation. Hey, that’d be a good slogan…

The NCAA, still more entertaining than the NBDL and WNBA combined!

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